Guest Mix by Dan Englander (a.k.a. Pings) of KingUnderground (+ Q&A)

Guest Mix by Dan Englander (a.k.a. Pings) of KingUnderground (+ Q&A)

The saying “No rest for the weary” seems to fit Dan Englander of UK-based label KingUnderground. He runs the imprint all by himself, is a beatmaker under the moniker of Pings, keeps on striving for high-quality vinyl pressings and the best possible mastering instead of settling for less, and has a side-job to be able to continue this beautiful struggle.

Started off in 2005 as an online record store, KingUnderground changed into a record label five years later when Dan got to know hip hop producer Lewis Parker, who asked him to release his album. Now, twelve years later, KingUnderground is home to artists like Fredfades, Planet Asia, Lewis Parker, Simiah, and Mr. Brown.

After being in touch for years, we’ve asked KingUnderground’s main man Dan for one of our guest mix features. The result: an untitled mix full of hip hop, jazz, funk and soul, accompanied by a short Q&A for you to get to know the driving force behind the label.

Tune into the 1-hour mix now for a selection including Gang Starr, Gladys Knight & The Pips, Kan Kick, Ivan Ave, Marc Moulin, Thes One, Roy Ayers, and many more.

Is KingUnderground your full-time occupation?

I work full-time on KingUnderground, but I also work 12 hours a week at a supermarket stocking shelves to try and make this hip hop sh*t work. It’s tough. Some days I start at 6am and finish at 7pm. There’s so much to do. It can be very stressful at times but the passion for music takes over and drives me.

Which projects or releases do you consider to be KingUnderground’s “magnum opus”?

There are others as well but in no order:

Fredfades & Ivan Ave – Breathe – I feel honoured to have been a part of this. When we put it out I wasn’t sure how people would take it, as Ivan is Norwegian but raps in a US accent, it could’ve went either way. Fred & Ivan have now become a major part in this underground hip hop scene. I’m proud to have been a part of that.    

Lewis Parker – The Glass Ceiling – If it wasn’t for Lewis, KingUnderground wouldn’t be going now I think. The dude’s major prolific Shark and The Glass Ceiling are our best selling records to date. I could’ve picked a number of his records, my favourite is his new record Release The Stress.

“It’s very important to me that stuff sounds as good as possible. I need to feel happy with the music we are selling, even if that means we make less”

In this day and age saturated by independent labels, how do you strive to stand out from the rest?

All I would say is I’m not one to give up, I’ve been doing this for almost 12 years. We are still not there yet, we keep it moving. I spend a lot of thought in how I promote stuff and keeping a high quality level to our design work, thanks to Bee, Hans, Even etc. Those guys kill it. And we have recently started to spend a lot on mastering and high-quality vinyl pressing. It has increased our costs but we believe it’s worth it, it’s very important to me that stuff sounds as good as possible. I need to feel happy with the music we are selling, even if we make less. There are lots of new producers these days, some are good but when I’m looking for releases I’m looking for something that’s “special”. Something that has that thing about it I can’t quite describe.

Would you consider yourself to be a record collector? How does your personal collection look like?

I would say I’m definitely a record collector. I don’t have much time or money to go digging as often as I would like, but I buy records online, or buy big bundles when I do get the time to dig. My collection isn’t massive though, maybe 3000 to 3500 records.
Last of all, big thanks to Danny at The Find Mag. I told him about a year ago, “Yeah, I’ll make a mix for The Find, give me a month”—it took me a year! Hope you enjoy the mix, it’s just a bunch of stuff with a fair few KingUnderground joints in there too. Thanks to all the KU artists, you make this happen. Everyone else, you know who you are.

Just an ordinary guy always on the hunt for extraordinary music. Not just as the founder of The Find Magazine & Rucksack Records, but also as a freelance music journalist (bylines at Tracklib, Bandcamp, Wax Poetics, DIG Mag, among others) and—above all—out of love for all kinds of good music.